It says something about the desire of the Obama Administration to try to quietly and without consequence destroy anyone who makes any challenges to their shameful mistreatment of an alleged whistleblower that they waited to make their move, not just for the usual news black hole that is a typical part of the American weekend, but for a weekend when a single global event — the ongoing catastrophes in Japan — would consume what media and public attention exists:

P.J. Crowley is abruptly stepping down as State Department spokesman under pressure from the White House, according to senior officials familiar with the matter, because of controversial comments he made about the Bradley Manning case.

Crowley will step down as early as Sunday afternoon, the officials said, because White House officials are furious about his suggestion that the Obama administration is mistreating Manning, the Army private who is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, under suspicion that he leaked highly classified State Department cables to the website Wikileaks.

Speaking to a small group at MIT last week, Crowley was asked about allegations that Manning is being tortured and kicked up a firestorm by answering that what is being done to Manning by Defense Department officials “is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”

Geez, a new Saturday Night Massacre! How fricking Nixonian can you get? What’s next, secretly bombing Cambodia?

Bear in mind, Crowley was saying this as someone who thinks Manning should be held and put on trial for whistleblowing — erm, leaking. But he has the brains and morality to realize that if getting actual information out of Manning is a goal, torturing PFC Manning is not how you go about achieving that goal.

[Michael Whitney and Dday have more.]